By Douglas Scott
Nature is important to our way of life. We have survived as a community because of it, and flourished learning to use our resources to create small towns and communities all around the Pacific Northwest. The vast majority of us are thankful for each and every tree, river and mountain we see. Yet, once the days grow shorter, we tend to stay away from the wilderness. The day after Thanksgiving used to be strictly for family time, or exploring favorite trails in the off season. Today, these adventures have been replaced by the desire to shop and save money.
As the crowds head to the retail stores on Black Friday, we are hopping on board with REI and suggesting that everyone #OptOutside for the day. We have decided to celebrate the region, and be thankful to live in such a beautiful region of the world. Sure, you could go shopping and get a slightly better deal for some product you may not actually need, or you could start a new family tradition of experiencing nature and enjoying the beauty and joy of adventuring in the wilderness around Grays Harbor. If you decide that the latter seems more appealing, we have ten great destinations around Grays Harbor that you need to experience.
Damon Point is a fantastic destination to explore, and is both family and dog-friendly. Jutting into Grays Harbor and offering incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains, a day at Grays Harbor is better than any day in the malls or large box stores. In good weather, the scenery is breathtaking, while bad weather days at Damon Point make for excellent shell and agate collecting. What makes this a great #OptOutside destination is the potential to see seals, eagles and maybe even snowy owls.
Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail
I have said it before, and I will say it again. There are few better places in all of Grays Harbor than the Quinault Rainforest. Just a short drive from town, we have trails that hikers from around the world long to explore. During the holidays, you need to get outdoors and explore the Quinault. When the tourists are gone, take yourself, or your family out and explore the magic of the rainforest. With over 13 miles of well-maintained trails and an incredible loop drive full of huge trees, waterfalls and elk, it is hard to want to explore anywhere else.
Just outside of Montesano, there are trails and views to explore that are the perfect getaway from the craziness of Black Friday shopping. Lake Sylvia has five miles of hiking trails, including a half mile-ADA friendly path, so it is great for all levels of nature lovers. With ducks, beavers, and occasional deer sightings, taking a trip out this way is well worth the effort. Lake Sylvia is a great destination to #OptOutside, as well as a perfect starter destination for those looking to start exploring nature in the off-season.
Taking a trip and exploring the Wynoochee Valley is something everyone should do, and there is no better day than Black Friday to head out and explore this remote and mysterious region. Known nationally for Bigfoot sightings and amazing fishing, Wynoochee is also a great place to see waterfalls, forests and a beautiful lake. Whether you just drive to the Coho Campground at Wynoochee Lake, hit the 16 miles of trails around the lake, or explore Wynoochee Falls, spending time with your family here instead of shopping is sure to give you lasting memories.
Westport Light State Park
If you love lighthouses, skip the stores on Black Friday and go take a look at the tallest lighthouse in Washington State. Located at Westport Light State Park, this is a perfect destination for those in the Westport Area, or families interested in heading out to the coast. While beach combing may not be ideal here, there is a 1.3 mile boardwalk that leads to Westhaven State Park to the north. However, the highlight is climbing there lighthouse itself, which says it will be open on Black Friday.
If you are looking for the best beach trip for your #OptOutside adventure, head north up Highway 101 and explore stunning Ruby Beach. With sea stacks, huge waves and views of Destruction island and Lighthouse, it is hard to not fall in love at first sight with this beach. A short trail weaves down from the large parking area, putting you right down on the sandy, driftwood-filled beach. For an added bonus, stop by and ask the good people at the Kalaloch Lodge how to get to the famous Kalaloch Root Tree.
Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge
Close to town, the wildlife refuge of Grays Harbor feels isolated and remote. Full of thousands of migratory birds, short treks and some of the best birding in Washington State, taking a trip here on Black Friday will prove to be a winning destination. With a two mile roundtrip trek down the Sandpiper Trail, this is a great place to stretch your legs, work off the turkey and enjoy a national recognized area right in our backyard.
Schafer State Park
With two miles of hiking trails, 56 camping sites and numerous outdoor exhibits detailing the park’s history and culture, Schafer State Park is a great place to walk in the woods or enjoy a day of fishing on the Satsop River. The park is lined photos and descriptions of the Schafer’s pioneer settlement, highlighted by the “Life of the River” exhibit, which explains flooding, geology, fish habitat, and other features at the park.
Griffiths-Priday State Park
Often overlooked as a beachcombing destination, the beach along this state park gives those walking it numerous sections of gravel to look over, as well as a location for any number of types of flotsam. Located at the mouth of the Copalis River, the beach at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park also receives a large amount of rocks and shells, making it ideal to find large agates, petrified wood and even pieces of quartz crystal.
If the previous nine destinations don’t get you excited to explore mature, consider staying in town and hanging out in one of the cities many parks. Most are well-maintained year round and offer fun playgrounds and great picnic areas. A full list of local parks can be found here.
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